Creating new near-surface air temperature datasets to understand elevation-dependent warming in the Tibetan Plateau

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Remote Sensing, 2020, 12, (11)
Issue Date:
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© 2020 by the authors. The Tibetan Plateau has been undergoing accelerated warming over recent decades, and is considered an indicator for broader global warming phenomena. However, our understanding of warming rates with elevation in complex mountain regions is incomplete. The most serious concern is the lack of high-quality near-surface air temperature (Tair) datasets in these areas. To address this knowledge gap, we developed an automated mapping framework for the estimation of seamless daily minimum and maximum Land Surface Temperatures (LSTs) for the Tibetan Plateau from the existing MODIS LST products for a long period of time (i.e., 2002-present). Specific machine learning methods were developed and linked with target-oriented validation and then applied to convert LST to Tair. Spatial variables in retrieving Tair, such as solar radiation and vegetation indices, were used in estimation of Tair, whereas MODIS LST products were mainly focused on temporal variation in surface air temperature. We validated our process using independent Tair products, revealing more reliable estimates on Tair; the R2 and RMSE at monthly scales generally fell in the range of 0.9-0.95 and 1-2 °C. Using these continuous and consistent Tair datasets, we found temperature increases in the elevation range between 2000-3000 m and 4000-5000 m, whereas the elevation interval at 6000-7000 m exhibits a cooling trend. The developed datasets, findings and methodology contribute to global studies on accelerated warming.
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